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Post-war emigration

Triggered by the ruins of the war, the rampant housing shortage, and the bleak economic prospects in the agrarian sector, emigration from the Netherlands peaked in the fifteen years after the second world war. Emigration was actively encouraged by the Dutch government. The most popular destinations were Canada and Australia, and to a lesser extend the U.S., South Africa and New Zealand.

Tracing your roots into the Netherlands is relatively easy if you descend from these emigrants. Many of the emigrants are still alive, and even when they’re not it is usually easy to find someone who has known them. You have probably some addresses of relatives in the Netherlands. On the other hand, most post-war archives are not accessible due to privacy regulations, so it may be harder to set the next step.

The main source for genealogy research in the post-war era are the persoonskaarten (person cards) from the population register. These cards are not public, but for people deceased in the Netherlands you can obtain extracts (for a fee) from the Central Bureau for Genealogy – contact them (or look on their website) for details.

Your immigrant ancestors were probably born before 1939, and in that case you should be able to find their birth date, and the names of their parents and siblings, in the population register. Unfortunately, the population register is rarely available online, and can usually only be consulted in the local (or regional) archive in or near the town your ancestors lived. The archive that keeps these records can provide information (or scans or photocopies). Fees vary greatly from archive to archive (and are quite hefty at some places). You may want to ask around if someone is willing to visit the archive for you and get the information you need.

Emigration to Canada

Since the late 19th century, large numbers of Dutch settled in Canada. After 1945, Canada became the most popular destination for Dutch emigrants. The first group of emigrants were the war brides (Canadese bruiden, Canadian brides, in Dutch), young women, many of them with babies, who were engaged to Canadian soldiers that took part in the liberation of the Netherlands. Currently, a million Canadians claim to be of Dutch descent (or Dutch-born themselves), 300,000 are still able to speak (or, in some cases, think they are able to speak) Dutch.

As far as I know, there is no large online database of Dutch immigrants in Canada, but there are some passenger lists scattered around the internet. There is a (small) index of freely accessible passenger lists on Digital resources Netherlands and Belgium.

Emigration to Australia

Both the Dutch and the Australian government kept track of Dutch immigrants in Australia. Some of the data they collected can be consulted online, on the websites of their respective national archives.

The Dutch National Archive published the article From the Netherlands to Australia and the database of Dutch emigrants to Australia on their website. The immigration records of Dutch immigrants kept by the Australian government are published as part of a larger database of records created by 9000 Australian Government agencies, accessible on the website of National Archives of Australia.

Further reading